PCI’s Director of Creative Strategy reveals his source for creative inspiration…and kindles a new hope that more is on the way!
Star Wars is everything. To me and my generation, it is the pinnacle of narrative achievement. It has fueled our imaginations and laid the groundwork for imagination itself. For the 40-something set, it has shaped our understanding of the universe (well, galaxy, anyway), providing us with archetypes for heroism, adventure, and villainy. When Star Wars debuted in 1977, there had been nothing like it. And, I dare say, there has yet to be anything like it since. But the remarkable thing about the Star Wars universe is, like the universe itself, it’s constantly expanding. Even if you’ve never read the books or seen the cartoons or even the bizarre 1980s TV specials (which are absolutely worth revisiting!), you have had a chance to expand the universe through your own imagined origin stories and spinoffs. I did that every day as a child—and, in some way or another, that expansive play informs every feat of creativity to this day.
I was five years old when I first saw that crawl that welcomed me to a galaxy far, far away, and my life was forever changed. For seven glorious years from 1977-1983 my universe expanded. We acted out scenes—both from the trilogy and the imagined movies in our heads. I got to be Han Solo. I had dark hair. My fair-haired brother was relegated to Luke. My friend Bari was Leia. And, this being Stony Brook, Long Island, Lando went uncast. We had Wookiee battles (before Lucas had Wookiee battles) and lightsaber fights and, more than a few times, were frozen in carbonite. Our play extended to the action figures. There were so many—enough to fill Darth Vader’s hollowed head! The mustachioed Bespin Guard, the lacertine Bossk, the chrome-domed Lobot—each had a backstory left open for our creation. I was wholly unaware that with every improvised line of dialogue and every time a TIE fighter destroyed a Lincoln Log fortress, I was creating a foundation for a lifetime of storytelling. Star Wars changed me. Shaped me. Bull’s-eyed me like a womp rat from a T-16 on Tatooine. Star Wars taught me how to tell a story.
The Force is strong with me. Has been since long ago. The magic and mystery of Star Wars runs deep through an entire generation. And it permeates our psyche. I admit, I don’t know what a pre-Star Wars world is. But I doubt people went as Serpico for Halloween or had Travis Bickle action figures. But now even the anti-heroes are somehow honored. Now even the Weasley twins have spinoffs. Now even Jorah Mormont ranks an action figure. We are hardwired to consider the full narrative, to care about the extras and fixate on their backstories. Since A New Hope brought new hope to storytelling, our stories are richer.
And now the world continues. I’m older—and more Lobot than Han—and giggling nervously like Salacious Crumb at the rapidly approaching new Star Wars movie. Will my imagination be thrust into hyperspace? Or will it stall like the Millennium Falcon? I have no idea. But I’ve played all sorts of scenarios out in my head—some glorious, others Alderaan-ish. I am able to spin these out into so many permutations, so many fully-fledged possibilities and sub-narratives. This is how my mind works.
And I thank Star Wars for that.
So…for those who share my passion for Yavin, my ardor for Endor, my heart for Hoth: Who is your favorite obscure Star Wars character? For me, it was Dengar—the bandaged and bitter bounty hunter that appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. What happened to him? Why was he so damaged and dangerous? And what derailed him from collecting the bounty on Han? I had many a story built around Dengar. Which Star Wars supernumerary spurred your imagination?